Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, a former cold warrior himself, has raised the question of the U.S.’s dominance during a forum in Germany. In suggesting that Washington has such intentions, and by raising the spectre of cold war conflict he has unwittingly drawn the U.S. and Europe closer together as his own cold war-like actions in recent years draw the spotlight, media in Europe report. His remarks in Munich showed as much, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates likened his words to cold war nostalgia. This comes on the heels of a winter gas crisis provoked by a shutoff of gas supplies through the Ukraine by Russia, in what was said by some to be a soviet-style punishment for the 2004 “Orange Revolution” in the Ukraine. The Orange Revolution was a voter rebellion which indicated a desire to disconnect from the Kremlin, and these actions have led Europeans to believe that the Russian punitive temper of the former cold war still continues to this day.
Other energy disputes, including the recent one with Belarus, have made Europeans edgy as a quarter of their gas supply comes from Russia. A former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, was also found dead in the UK last year, with the cause of his death suspected to be poisoning by a radioactive substance, possibly traceable to Moscow.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Kremlin has been moving away from democracy to a regime of control and paranoia, according to a book excerpt published in the Washington Post. Putin is an ex-KGB member, who still apparently believes that intimidation and manipulation are useful tools in government.
Putin is keeping in close contact with friendly governments in the Middle East, currently traveling to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, and is continuing to expand his country’s influence in ways reminiscent of the former Soviet Union, though no longer under the guise of the spread of communism. An editorial in India spoke of the advantages of his visit there, and the potential for joining the two ancient, intellectual traditions. Putin continues to build economic and political alliances, even as he is seen as potentially restricting domestic democracy and reducing previous free market reforms in his country.
Xinhua, the Chinese News Agency, reported that Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanoff said that president Putin’s remarks were intended to reflect concern over perceived NATO movement towards the Russian border, in the form of missile defense systems in eastern Europe, despite assurances given previously. He said that Russia has no desire for a new Cold War. “A Cold War would not be a good development,” he said.
“Gates turns Putin blast into cold war jibe”, Financial Times, February 12, 2007 (Print Edition)